The score for this film is, without doubt, a work of utter brilliance and the highlight of the film. But before I get underway, I would like to address comments made by Fernando Gonzalez dated October 29, 2007 where he, being uncomfortable with the brilliance of Earth, Wind and Fire and wanting to try and downplay their obvious significance, makes several rather ridiculous statements.
He's clearly a Beatles fan and unable to cope with a band who forged their own path and did things that quite frankly were not done before as The Elements. I was curious were this came from, so I read the other reviews listed here and didn't see anyone that mentioned the Beatles but were giving praise, rightfully so, to The Elements.
Let me first say that while I respect what the Beatles did, it is completely uninformed to think that they are the "center of the musical universe" for every artist. To try and down play Earth, Wind and Fire's undeniable and historical influence to build up the Beatles makes no sense. There is absolutely nothing the Beatles did that Earth, Wind and Fire didn't do and they were an overall superior band. Earth, Wind and Fire are the "center of the musical universe" for many artists who have stated so over and over again.
Let's be clear, Verdine White liked the Beatles, he stated that it was his brothers Maurice and Fred who were his main influences along with Motown. I've read no articles nor seen any interviews where any other band member and they were 9 members strong who list the Beatles as any type of influence. So in response to another statement made in the review "I'm sure Maurice is happy about any comparisons to the Beatles" quite frankly, this doesn't hold water. He was influenced by the sounds of Memphis TN were he was born and grew up and Chicago were he and his family later moved. He was a legend prior to forming Earth, Wind and Fire as the session drummer for Chess Records in the 1960's and member of the Ramsey Lewis Trio.
Now to the review of the film:
The plot for this film was actually fairly decent, it deals with the shady side of the music industry including it's bigotry and ties with "unsavory" characters. "The Group" (Earth, Wind & Fire) is a band trying to make it to the "big time" but is not considered palatable for the new, bigoted and crooked record executive who has just been assigned by the new owners of the label to find a band or group that the company could build it's success around. The company has a hot shot producer (Keitel) who wants to promote "The Group" as the band to carry the label into the next phase of it's existence. They were already signed to the label and where a self contained band that had all the makings of a super group!
Instead, the record exec, without the knowledge of his star producer, hires this far less talented and completely unknown singng trio who fit what the exec felt the record industry should be about, i.e. a white artist with the "supposed purity" of artists back in the 1950's. There was nothing pure about them and their talent or lack thereof caused a rift between Keitel's character and his. Keitel was caught between a rock and a hard place, on the one hand he knew "The Group" was the next "big thing" and he was a loyal friend of everyone in the band. On the other hand, he had a father who was a addict and got his fix from his son, Keitel, who obtained it from one of the execs at the label. Plus he was also under contract to the label with a clause that forced him to unemployed, unable to join another label, for a year if he quit.
The main reason I give this film 4 instead of 5 stars is that Earth, Wind and Fire should have been one of the primary focuses of the film and were not. They are more of a secondary thought and although spoken of quite a bit are rarely ever seen. There are some incredible live and recorded performances and the soundtrack is of course legendary in and of itself. However, if you were going to include them in the movie, they should have played a more significant role. Especially with the plot being what it was.
The film could have explored more of the day to day life of "The Group" and the struggles they went through while being constantly overlooked and placed on "hold" while their white contemporaries and a less talented group where moved ahead of them and allowed to have their songs recorded, marketed and released to the awaiting masses. I think this is the missing link in the movie that leaves something to be desired by the viewers.